Royal Parks half marathon is the London Marathon of half marathons – everyone and their extended family wants to run it and it’s very hard to get a ballot place.
While I have been a London Marathon ballot looser for 6 years, I have been a bit more luckier with Royal Parks and have run it three times – 2012, 2013 and again last weekend.
I had no clear expectations for this year’s race. I got a new half marathon PB from Ealing half just 2 weeks ago, I returned to Crossfit after 7 weeks off to run a marathon and was therefore without a PB pressure and quite a bit sore from lifting weights again.
For a second I thought that I should just run without my Garmin and ‘have fun’ but the thing is that when I race, I like to push myself a bit. I can run ‘for fun’ any time I want, when I pay money to run, I want to suffer a bit. In a good way. In a racing kind of way.
I knew that in addition to having a bit of a stiff & sore Crossfit body, the route was going to be crowded so the final plan was to go with the feel, push the pace as much as possible but not get annoyed by the crowds too much and not aim to beat my PB of 1:41:54.
I managed to get out of the portaloo 4 minutes before the gun went off (if there are 16,000 runners + all their families, there are NEVER enough portaloos!) but I didn’t have to rush to the start corridor because the first 3km from the start were really slow anyway due to the size of the crowd and due to the fact that you’re supposed to be in a starting area based on your finish time but EVERYBODY LIES about their finish time when they sign up – the crowd around me definitely did not run at a pace due to finish in less than 1:50.
I always carry my own water with me for half and full marathons but I’m now learning to try and trust water stations to have free hands. When water is given out in cups, I still tend to take my own as it’s tricky to drink from a cup while running (and I can’t stop and drink because of all those several seconds of time lost! ;P).
I saw before the race that the water bottles were with sports caps so I had no worries about leaving my own water behind. When I got to the first drinks station though, they had screwed all the caps off completely so I STILL had to drink from an open bottle while running, which means half of the water does down your shirt! I do not understand why have sports capped bottles but then remove the caps! At the next station I slowed down and asked for a bottle with a cap still on. Much better. I like to sip my water over a few kilometres, not pour it all down my throat, and my shirt, in 10 seconds.
In 2012 I had some awesome race photos from this race so I was looking out for photographers but I never saw any. They probably were there but I must have been so deep in the crowd each time I passed them that I just didn’t notice. Result – no race photos. Boo. That totally sucks. I wanted a newer version of something like this from 2012:
Other than being disappointed with the water bottles and the lack of photographers, I enjoyed the run. The route was different than in 2013 but still looping through some parts of Hyde Park that I never usually venture to and I’m reminded again just how nice Hyde Park is when you go a bit further from the main parts of it.
I kept a steady pace, I managed not to step on anyone’s heels but I did bump a few elbows. The day was sunny but not too hot, the supporting crowd along the route was great (if not too loud at some spots) and my body felt really good considering all the racing and Crossfire I’ve done recently.
The last 800m were all slightly downhill. That was very nicely done. I sprinted big time, crossed the finish line at 1:44:07, slightly nauseous for a few minutes but by the time that passed, I felt great.
Now that the race was done, it took me another hour to get out of the park. First the queue for the ‘goodies’ – that took forever and people kept cutting into he line in front of me and I was soaking wet and getting cold and grumpy. Most of the goodies were liquid. Boo. I want food and just water after I race. A little box of Graze nibbles and 874 miniature bottles of coke/juice/milk just didn’t do it for me. I should have skipped the goodies queue and gone straight to get my bag.
Thankfully there was no line for the bag pick-up BUT I could not see a changing area anywhere so changed into dry clothes in a portaloo. Always a great experience after a million people have used them.
Then I stood in a long line AGAIN to get a cup of coffee and only then battled through the crowds to get out of Hyde Park. I had promised someone to message him after the race to catch up but couldn’t face trying to find somebody in that massive sea of people and just wanted to get OUT and get home. Plus, I had deleted my Instagram account a week ago so realised there was no easy way to get in touch… Sorry, @ianrunsldn.
I finally made it home after some London Transport fails as well and decided that next year I’m not going to apply for a ballot place. I’ll give that chance to somebody else who hasn’t run Royal Parks yet and who isn’t as picky about crowds or water bottles.